She dropped the envelope like a burnt match and stared at it among the red grit on her stone floor. It can stay there as far as I’m concerned. Let the dog get at it. I don’t care. She turned her back on the Government Notice from India Affairs and walked over to the front window.
Tessa pulled back the curtain scanning the street as far as she could see in each direction. There were too many people mulling about to pick out who was surveilling her house today. No … wait, there was someone across the way looking in her direction – just standing there. How blatant they have become! Why? Their eyes met. She turned and looked at the envelope. ‘Oh no.’ she sighed. ‘This is it.’
Down through the years, God directed her path to various Children’s Ministries, but homeless street children were her passion, and it seemed He had finally worked out a way for her to live out her heart’s desire. Surely she hadn’t misunderstood. A warrior’s heart beat deep in her soul for children.
Tessa reluctantly picked up the envelope. Might as well get it over with.
Dear Tessa Giles,
It has been brought to our attention you have been unlawfully conducting group instruction in your home with children under the age of sixteen.
We have several documented incidents of this activity in the past eight months and request your attendance at the next Council meeting scheduled for the first Tuesday of next month.
Please refrain from any and all activity involving children until we can further instruct you of your status as a Visiting Goodwill Ambassador.
Lt. Prakash, Rajan
Tessa’s heart quicken with alarm at the threat to her work. Surely God will work out something.
Chechi Tess! Chechi Tess! Shirt … dry…’
Tessa smiled and motioned to the table, ‘Time to eat!’
The kids loved to help around the house as much as they loved to eat. They never seemed to get enough! Tessa busied herself with refills of tea, sandwiches and attention, but she didn’t mind. It felt like heaven to help these children – and more came to her house each day. I wonder how long I can claim them as domestic help? It was the one loophole she clung to.
There was a knock at the back door.
She rushed to open the door expecting another child but there stood a man in uniform looking down at her startled face. Her warrior’s heart kicked in and she was able to stand her ground by not immediately asking him into the house. Instead, she asked, ‘Do you have any identification sir?’
Well acquainted with danger, the children shot out the front door.
‘I am Lt. Santosh, Suresh. I have been assigned to investigate allegations of child endangerment.’ he said as he showed her his badge, identification and documents. ‘Get packed.’
This time she couldn’t hide her shock. ‘I just received a notice … I … I …
The government official took a step towards her and she instinctively moved back – a mistake, for he was now in the house.
‘Get packed or go as you are – it makes no difference to me.’
God? How can this be? You wanted me to come here! These children! God? What’s going on?
The next few hours were a blur for Tessa.
Through the maze of official jargon, angry gestures and signed documents she despaired at their twisted reasoning.
They didn’t care if their children were hungry. They didn’t care if their children slept on streets and were ill. They didn’t care if their children suffered the pain of abandonment.
What they did care about was the ‘endangerment’ to their religious beliefs. They didn’t want this next generation influenced by any other ‘god.’
She had no defense – they no longer trusted her.
She was to leave the country.
A lift off that began a fifty-nine hour flight home, also began a spiral she could barely control. Her Bible lay opened upon her lap; each verse, each promise, stitching back together pieces of her life – a life weary of waiting.
‘Chechi? Um … sit? Um … please? Here?’ a young lady spoke as she tried to get Tessa’s attention.
So engrossed was Tessa in her own troubled thoughts, she almost responded without thinking.
She looked up and smiled into liquid dark eyes.
‘Erunnu kollu.’ she said as she gestured toward her seat.
Another piece … another stitch.
South Indian language – Malayalam Region
Chechi - is the proper approach for addressing an older woman.
Erunno kollu – is the response for ‘Yes, you may.’
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